Sunday, December 12, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 90: Bar Harbor, Maine

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 90:  Bar Harbor, Maine
October 4, 2010

            Located on the incredible Mount Desert Island, Bar Harbor ended up being a slice of home for me hundreds of miles away from it.  In the same vein as Nantucket, Bar Harbor is a hugely popular tourist destination especially during the peak months of April through October.  It is also the home to a large part of the picturesque Acadia National Park but that spot is worthy of its own article.
Criterion Theatre c.1932
            I stayed overnight in Bar Harbor as it is a good two hours drive up from Owl’s Head.  I stayed at the Edenbrook Motel on Eden Street.  It was a perfect area for a base camp as it was very close to the main drag of Bar Harbor: Cottage Street.  Although not quite the same, Cottage Street has a lot of the charm that Main Street on Nantucket has, minus the cobblestones of course.  There are so many little shops and restaurants that are unique to Bar Harbor, I found myself parking in an off-street lot and taking the time to walk up and down Cottage Street and the surrounding area just to see these spots.
            I won’t be able to name all of them but I could not help but stop and smile at places like Cool As A Moose with its moose in sunglasses logo and Debbah Gifts with its lobster logo and Bar Harbor spelled out ‘Baa-Haa-Baa.’  A walk along these streets, even in October, was a great experience even if they were tremendously crowded.  I found out why later in my trip.
Agamont Park and the actual Bar Harbor.
            There are several historic buildings along Cottage Street.  One of which is the amazing Criterion Theatre.  It is a beautiful, intimate arena of sorts first opened in 1932.  It still runs shows today after being a showcase during the height of vaudeville.  The most unique aspect of the Criterion Theatre is the ‘floating’ balcony.  It is a free hanging structure with eighty-eight of the best seats in the house.
Bar Harbor Inn
            There are so many little shops worth checking out but there was also a neat alley for lack of a better term where a few more store fronts were located.  There was a really nice fountain in the center filled with some colorful rocks.  I took a walk up the stairs and got an unbelievable view of Agamont Park down at the water.  Before heading that way I snapped some photos of the old buildings on Main Street.  Sherman’s Book Store was a place that I knew must have some history to it and I was right.  It was originally opened by Bill Sherman in 1886 and back then it actually printed the local newspaper on its premises.  Nowadays the paper is no longer printed there but Sherman’s does have a total of four locations in the mid-coast area so I think it is safe to say that not printing the newspaper has not hurt their business.
            A walk on Cottage Street can easily be turned into a collection of incredible views of the Maine coast if you simply take a left onto Main Street and take a walk down to Agamont Park and the actual water body known as Bar Harbor.  It is here where I found the reason why the streets were so crowded on a Monday in October.  Docked a few hundred feet out into the water was a huge Norwegian Cruise Ship, this was where many of the visitors had come from.
Porcupine Islands along the Shore Path.
            Agamont Park is an amazing spot.  There is another gorgeous fountain which ushers you into the park’s grounds.  Once on the green grass the scope of the scenery becomes apparent.  Sitting not too far out into the water are the Porcupine Islands which make up another ‘classic Maine’ scene; one of many that I saw during my trip.  There is also the Shore Path which is exactly what it says.  The nearly mile long walk along the rocky Maine coast is breathtaking.  Originally created in 1880 it begins at Agamont Park with connections at a few streets which allow you to travel back into town or continue the full distance.  It reminded me a lot of the Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island just without the mansions.
            At the beginning of the Shore Walk is the very popular Bar Harbor Inn & Spa which blends in seamlessly with the rest of the natural beauty it observes.  The Inn used to be a social club called the Oasis Club which was frequented by such legendary American names as the Vanderbilts, Pulitzers, and Morgans.  The club began in 1874 and moved into its own building designed by William Randolph Emerson in 1887.  This is the current building.  The Bar Harbor Inn was an exclusive club up until the 1950’s when some townspeople joined to develop it into a hotel as well.  The name was changed to the current Bar Harbor Inn when it was purchased by David J. Witham in 1987.
            There is so much to see in this vacation destination.  I have tried to mention some places that stood out to me but I imagine that other visitors would have different spots they were fond of.  All I can say is that once you are here you will know why so many people flock to Bar Harbor.  The ocean views are incredible and Acadia National Park is so very close by.  I believe that everyone needs to take a trip up to Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island in its entirety.  There is no way you will be disappointed.  Have fun and happy traveling!

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DirectionsAgamont Park:  Take Rt. 1 into Ellsworth, take right onto Rt. 3/Bar Harbor Rd.  Follow it 18 miles into Bar Harbor.  Turn left at West St., follow it to the water.   
            Criterion Theatre:  Take Rt. 1 into Ellsworth, take right onto Rt. 3/Bar Harbor Rd.  Follow it 18 miles into Bar Harbor.  Turn left at Cottage St., Theatre is on left, #35.
            Acadia National Park:  Take Rt. 1 into Ellsworth, take right onto Rt. 3/Bar Harbor Rd.  Follow it 18 miles into Bar Harbor.  Turn right at Eagle Lake Road, Park Headquarters are two miles up on left.

            Edenbrook Motel Bar Harbor
            Bar Harbor

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